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Contributing Writer

Scientific-focused Cloud Computing

May 06, 20102 mins
Cisco SystemsData and Information SecurityGovernment

NASA Nebula Designed for Rocket Scientists -- Not Enterprise IT

Earlier this week, I moderated a panel about cloud computing success stories at the Cloud Computing Summit. One of the panelists was Chris Kemp, CTO at NASA who is responsible for the NASA Nebula Cloud Computing project at the NASA Ames facility in the Silicon Valley.Nebula is rather unique. First, it is based completely on open source — proprietary vendors need not apply. Second, it is targeted toward researchers who need computational horsepower and lots of storage capacity for fixed amounts of time. Finally, Nebula is gaining lots of visibility as a cloud computing model that may be applicable across the Federal government.Chris answered a lot of questions about Nebula, but my primary conclusions were:1. Nebula is a viable desktop replacement. Chris stated that before Nebula, each researcher had his or her own dedicated Linux box. Aside from the capital cost, these boxes had to be maintained and secured which wasn’t always easy. In between projects, these systems also tended to sit idle or at the very least were under utilized. In this way, Nebula can be thought of as a cloud-based virtual Linux desktop infrastructure. New projects, employees, and workloads can be provided with central control.2. Nebula’s success rides on fast cheap storage. No EMC or NetApp boxes here, Nebula is built on racks of commodity disk drives. Why? Researchers consume a lot of storage but don’t need the value-added software capabilities of these enterprise-focused systems. Again, this illustrates the difference between a cloud computing infrastructure built for scientists, not for enterprises.3. Nebula could have broad application. NASA isn’t the only agency focused on scientific research. In fact, when I last saw Chris Kemp, he was chatting with another panelist from Los Alamos lab. Nebula could also extend to academia and science-centric commercial industries.In his final comments, Kemp also provided some sage advice. Cloud computing is a cultural change across the organization. He advised the audience to educate business people, purchasing managers, operations managers, etc. on cloud computing so they can prepare accordingly. Chris should know, NASA Nebula is quite an achievement.

Contributing Writer

Jon Oltsik is a distinguished analyst, fellow, and the founder of the ESG’s cybersecurity service. With over 35 years of technology industry experience, Jon is widely recognized as an expert in all aspects of cybersecurity and is often called upon to help customers understand a CISO's perspective and strategies. Jon focuses on areas such as cyber-risk management, security operations, and all things related to CISOs.

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